A decision on whether to permanently close Ocean Boulevard to through traffic is dividing the community.
Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said he’s received more correspondence on that topic than any other during his time as mayor.
“Council received a pretty even split on closing the road, parts of the road or leaving it open,” Martin noted.
|Colwood Mayor Rob Martin: traffic on Ocean Boulevard is a frequent topic for public correspondence.|
A recent survey taken by more than 3,800 respondents indicated 61 per cent were in favour of keeping traffic flowing along Ocean Boulevard, the roadway along a long spit that fronts Esquimlt Lagoon.
While just 22 per cent supported a full permanent closure of the roadway, a total of 39 per cent of respondents favoured some form of closure, including 10 per cent who support a seasonal shutdown, and seven per cent supporting weekend-only road closures.
The last council vote on the matter, which closed 400 metres of the boulevard for food trucks and music events on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, passed by a 4-3 vote, Martin noted. He anticipates a motion will be put forward at the Aug. 31 council meeting to discuss opening the road up again on the Tuesday after Labour Day (Sept. 8).
Rick McKay, who grew up in the Esquimalt Lagoon neighbourhood, said a lot of the problems date back to 2010, when the bridge on Ocean Boulevard was shut down for maintenance for six months.
He is part of a small group called the Peninsula Lagoon Supporters that got together in 2011.
“We felt that when the bridge was closed for repairs, there was a lot of misinformation going around,” McKay said. While he agrees some work had to be done, he said the hole that prompted the work could have been filled in and covered with a steel plate more quickly than closing the bridge for six months.
McKay recalled that some councillors at the time cited a list of problems with the bridge, and the City engineer indicated that detailed maintenance would be ending and the bridge had to be replaced. McKay, who is an operational engineer, asked for all of the engineering reports and believes they showed that only regular maintenance was needed. Maintenance reports are completed every five years, he added.
“Fast forward to March of this year and I feel like they’re using COVID-19 as an excuse to close Ocean Boulevard once again to gauge public opinion about closing the roadway. They’re saying the bridge can’t be used any more as an excuse, when it’s in good shape. I think some councillors are working behind the scenes with special interest groups to have it closed to traffic permanently.”
McKay’s group would rather see traffic calming measures installed and improved walking surfaces so Ocean Boulevard can be used by everyone, including drivers.
“The recent survey indicates the majority want to keep the traffic flowing,” he said. “Honour the survey and honour the democratic process.”
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